ISTANBUL – Fearing that a U.S.-backed reconciliation between Israel and Turkey might unravel, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Turkish leaders Sunday that it was vital for peace in the region that the two close U.S. allies get their diplomatic relationship “back on track in its full measure.”
At the beginning of a diplomatic blitz that he hoped would lay the groundwork for the resumption of long-moribund Palestinian-Israeli talks, Kerry made it clear in Istanbul that he intended to build on Israel-Turkey rapprochement as the first step toward regional stability. He then traveled to Israel and the West Bank, where he met late Sunday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and was scheduled to meet today with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But it was hardly clear that the United States could parlay Israel’s apology last month for the deaths of nine people during a 2010 commando raid on a Turkish ship bringing aid to Gaza into a broader role for Turkey in Middle East peace talks.
Syrian government gains with counteroffensive
BEIRUT – After weeks of rebel gains in the south, the Syrian regime launched a counteroffensive Sunday with widespread airstrikes and an operation that reclaimed a northern village on a strategically important route.
At least 20 people were killed in heavy airstrikes that targeted rebels trying to topple the regime in at least seven cities and regions. To underline their resolve, the government called on opposition fighters to surrender their arms and warned in text messages that the army is “coming to get you.”
Troops recaptured on Saturday the village of Aziza on a strategic road that links Aleppo with its airport and military bases, activists said. Rebels have been trying to capture that airport and the nearby bases for months now.
Israeli websites hacked by pro-Palestine activists
JERUSALEM – A widespread hacker attack targeting Israeli websites disrupted government, academic and private sites Sunday.
Officials said strategic infrastructure appeared to have largely repelled the attacks.
Hundreds of websites have been attacked, and more than a dozen government sites have been temporarily disabled since the attack began.
The attack by hackers affiliated with the hacker group Anonymous was announced in advance and described by its organizers as an act of solidarity with Palestinians in retaliation for Israel’s treatment of them, and for Israeli settlements and what is perceived as disrespect for international law.
Several government websites, including those of the ministries of education, defense and environmental protection, were disabled overnight, defaced with anti-Israeli messages and loud music. They and other government sites were restored within a few hours, officials said.